Estyn: Vulnerable children let down by pupil referral units

The Welsh education system is making progress, but significant challenges remain, according to the watchdog Estyn's annual report. Standards in primary schools slipped in the last year, but they are still ahead of secondaries. Inspectors say "too many" pupil referral units "fail" the vulnerable pupils who attend them.

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  1. Tom Sheldrick

Welsh Govt vows to act on 'failing' pupil referral units

Wales' education watchdog has warned that some of our most vulnerable pupils are being let down due to huge inconsistencies in provision outside of mainstream schools.

In its annual report, Estyn said that, while special schools are very successful, too many pupil referral units are 'failing' the children who attend them.

The Education Minister Huw Lewis today pledged to act urgently to address the problems.

Tom Sheldrick reports:

Teaching unions: 'Steady but slow progress'

Welsh teaching unions say Estyn's annual report shows "steady but slow progress", as schools step up to the challenge set by Welsh Government policies. They acknowledge though that there is still work to do.

The overall message is that we are making steady but slow progress. Again and again the report points out that numeracy remains the weak point in many of our schools and colleges. We now need to bring the same focus to numeracy as we did to literacy, which has shown much greater improvement.

– Dr. Philip Dixon, Director of ATL Cymru

Ann Keane's final report shows some grounds for optimism, as schools and colleges respond to the challenge laid down by Welsh ministers. Outcomes in the secondary sector have improved - albeit from a low base - and the Foundation Phase is improving outcomes in most schools for our youngest learners when it is implemented as intended. Primary school standards appear to have declined slightly, though this seems to result from ‘raising the bar’ in mathematics rather than an actual decline in standards overall.

– Dr. Chris Howard, Acting Director of NAHT Cymru

The performance of our secondary schools continues to improve. It reflects the improvement in the quality and depth of the support through the regional consortia. This is making a positive difference. Of course, Estyn makes recommendations that need to be taken seriously. Secondary school leaders will read the report with care and reflect on the recommendations.

– Robin Hughes, Secretary of ASCL Cymru


Welsh Govt: 'Momentum for improvement' in education

The Welsh Government has welcomed Estyn's annual report as recognition of a "new momentum for improvement" in the education system here.

It points to last year's GCSE results, when the gap with England narrowed, to proof of progress, but says there is no complacency over moving forward further.

We particularly welcome Estyn’s recognition of the new momentum for improvement that exists within the Welsh education system. We must now work together to build on that momentum and focus on key issues such as leadership which will ensure the improvements we want to see.

Building an excellent education system is an ambition shared by everyone in the sector. Last year’s GCSE results show we are starting to see real and tangible progress but we are in no way complacent and recognise that we must continue to work hard and focus on ensuring sustained improvement throughout the sector.

We will now consider the report in detail and respond formally in Plenary at the end of February.

– Welsh Government spokesperson
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